Indian institutes of technology to open branch campus

Indian institutes of technology have announced the opening next year of a branch campus in Mauritius. The Indian Ocean island had sought the help of the prestigious institutes to set up a research-oriented academy of international standard.

The new institution, to be called International Institute of Technology and funded by a US$20 million investment, will initially be mentored by the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) – Delhi, as an IIT campus with a global outlook.

It will reportedly draw on the expertise of around 40 IIT Delhi academics, who will be asked to give up a month of their time to the offshore institution.

In line with cooperation initiatives between the governments of India and Mauritius, the IIT Council endorsed, in principle, a decision to assist in setting up the new institution, which will offer high-level engineering courses.

IIT assistance was sought by Rajesh Jeetah, Mauritius’ minister of tertiary education, science, research and technology, during a mission to India in January 2011.

The head of the Indian delegation, Professor Meenakshi Balakrishnan, said at the time that institutional and academic autonomy had helped IITs to become internationally recognised. “We are able to quickly respond to changes and innovations,” she told Jeetah.

The Mauritian authorities have been trying hard to seal the IIT agreement, which it believes will benefit the booming East African island in several says.

Besides the prestige of having a local IIT, the new institution will enhance the ‘knowledge hub’ concept that Jeetah has been promoting since he became tertiary education minister.

Mauritius is aiming to attract 100,000 foreign students a year within the next five to 10 years. To achieve this, it needs internationally prestigious institutions to set up campuses on the island.

A joint task force comprising experts and senior officials from both countries has been set up to monitor implementation of the IIT campus.

“We have already given the feasibility report to the Human Resource Development Ministry as well as the Mauritius government,” said Balakrishnan, who is in charge of the initiative. The institute should be operational next year and will engage in research and development for the first five years.

A senior officer in the Mauritian tertiary education ministry told University World News that the IIT would offer PhD courses through the University of Mauritius’ school of engineering in Reduit. Scholarships would be made available.

“Having a local IIT campus in Mauritius will enable the island to become a leading knowledge destination in Africa,” said the official, who preferred not to be named.

The IIT will join a long list of private foreign tertiary institutions opening branches in Mauritius. Some 66 overseas institutions and examination bodies are operating locally, 36 of them from the UK, eight from France-Réunion, eight from India, five from Australia, four from South Africa, two each from Malaysia and the United States, and one from Sudan.

The number of students pursuing tertiary education in the private sector, or directly with an overseas-based institution, reached nearly 11,700 in 2010 – up 9.4% on the previous year – and numbers have been steadily rising in recent years.